Raiders face Azusa Pacific in final home game

ASHLAND — Twelve seniors will play their final home football game for Southern Oregon University Saturday when the Raiders host NAIA rival Azusa Pacific at 6 p.m. at Raider Stadium.

The Raiders (2-5) and Cougars (4-3) meet in SOU's homecoming/Hall of Fame game.

The 17th class for SOU's Sports Hall of Fame will be inducted at 10 a.m. that day in the Rogue River Room at Stevenson Union.

New inductees are former wrestling coach Bob Riehm, multi-sport coach and administrator Dr. Sally Jones, track and field and cross country coach and athletic director Monty Cartwright, football standout Griff Yates and track and field athlete Theresa Walton.

Those wishing to attend can make reservations by calling 541-552-6772.

Southern Oregon and Azusa Pacific will be looking to turn around seasons that started with a lot of promise.

SOU, which is coming off a bye week, started the year 2-0 and was ranked in the NAIA Top 25 for the first time since 2004. It then dropped five straight.

Azusa Pacific began 4-0 and spent six weeks in the NAIA Top 25 before losing the last three. The Cougars received votes in this week's poll.

"This is a big game for both teams," SOU head coach Steve Helminiak said. "Both teams are trying to end losing streaks, and with both of us being NAIA Independents, this has become a big rivalry game."

Southern Oregon will need some help offensively if they look to turn things around.

The Raiders had four turnovers and had a hard time staying on the field two weeks ago in a 31-10 setback to Mary Hardin-Baylor.

"We need to get Brandon (Baldwin) going," Helminiak said. "He was out against Central Washington and had a tough game against Mary Hardin-Baylor. If he can get going, it makes our offense better."

Defensively, SOU will be helped by the fact that senior linebacker J.T. Gilmore should be ready to go after missing most of the Mary Hardin-Baylor game.

Azusa Pacific will bring in an offensive game plan similar to what SOU saw with Mary Hardin-Baylor.

The Cougars want to run the ball and rank sixth in the NAIA at 251 yards per game. Senior quarterback John van den Raadt needs 137 yards passing to move into second on the school's career passing list and also 72 rushing yards to move into 12th place on that list.

SOU and Azusa have long been two of the few NAIA programs with football on the West Coast.

This marks the 12th year the two teams have played. SOU leads the series 8-3 and is in the midst of a four-game winning streak against the Cougars.

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